Flood-weary voters in a small Lamoille County community have given their village leaders permission to continue pursuing a land deal that supporters say would both preserve a floodplain and prevent future development there.
Voters in Jeffersonville have authorized the Board of Trustees to buy a 4.2-acre parcel of land located in the middle of a floodplain where Jolley Associates of St. Albans had proposed a 16-pump gas station and retail store.
Since last year’s record flooding, residents have been debating environmental concerns surrounding plans to build on a site that has historically suffered significant flooding.
Jolley had applied for a permit to develop the site shortly before the village imposed new regulations that would have prevented any construction.
On a separate ballot, voters also authorized the village to spend up to $75,000 toward the $402,500 purchase price.
"Our intention from the word go has been – and still is – to try to do this 100 percent through fundraising and grants," says Jean Jenkauskas who is leading a citizens group that has raised more than $125,000 in donations toward the purchase price. "But if the time comes and we’ve got to put the money where our mouth is and we’re$75,000 short, we can use that $75,000."
Jenkauskus says voters’ approval in blocking development is a significant step toward future flood mitigation and toward preserving the character of the village. "It’s not just the 16-pump gas station. It’s the 11,000-square-foot retail store. It’s the 108 parking places. And to keep [Jolley’s] high and dry, it means many feet of fill. So you would not only be looking at a 16-pump gas station you would be looking up at it."
Since Tropical Storm Irene, the Shumlin administration has called on communities like Jeffersonville to safeguard floodplains from development, in an effort to avoid future Irene-scale disasters.
Jeffersonville and several other Vermont towns were featured in a video produced by FEMA about flood mitigation: